Deal with it! – stopping a complaint before it starts

27 Jun

I just had an interesting conversation with the admin staff at my daughter’s school, similar to the kind you might have at the doctor’s surgery with reception, or the returns desk at B&Q, and it made me realise how easy it would be to prevent people from complaining about your service.

Easiest solution would be to say ‘yes’ and agree to everything the aggrieved person says but that never worked in marriage, no guarantee it’ll work in this situation. You could say ‘sorry’, very effective in my opinion but nowadays no one says this because it somehow implies you’re at fault and it’s suddenly open season at Injury Lawyers R Us. This could be the most significant reason why there are more complaints and dissatisfied customers. If you find your organisation seems to be getting more and more complaints, look to your front of house.

don't complain concept

On a visit to a walk-in centre to get some fairly urgent treatment for my poorly daughter, I was told by the receptionist that it was 7:30 and they weren’t taking any more walk-ins. I pointed out that the clock behind her clearly said 7:20 which agreed with the time on my watch, phone and Sky News on the TV hanging on the wall of the reception. Can’t argue with that can you?

Actually she did, she went there.

“It’s 7.30 on my computer and it is the practice’s  policy to go by the time on the computer.”

Lesson 1: NEVER fob someone off with a clearly made up answer or jargon, it’ll only get their back up.

“Oh really?” I replied. “Would you mind if I came round there and took a look?”

“Non- staff members aren’t allowed behind the counter.” This was starting to look like a sketch for The Wright Way.

“I see.” It was going to be one of those evenings then. “Do you have a copy of your complaints procedure?”

A surprised look temporarily furrowed her brow while she mumbled something about getting her supervisor. “Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind giving me your name too…”  Well what was she expecting after trying to fob me off with that?

I should say at this point, I work for an organisation that deals with complaints and though I don’t work the frontline, I have a pretty good idea how to get a complaint heard.

Long story short, after one letter and two replies, I received confirmation that such a policy doesn’t exist and that the receptionist denied ever saying that. I did however, get apology for my daughter and an amount to cover the inconvenience of buying over-the-counter medicine.

Point is, had the receptionist simply said “Really sorry but there are lots of people waiting, only two doctors and we can’t see any more patients this evening” that would have been that.

The pressure of being on the front-line means you will get stressed, short and lippy with customers but if you do not want to genuinely help people, you’re in the wrong job.

So if you run a business or organisation you’d do well to train your customer service or admin staff on how to keep people happy. Now more than ever with the power of social media channels like Twitter, it takes seconds for criticism to go viral and that can’t be good for your reputation.

How did it go with the school? That’s for another day.

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One Response to “Deal with it! – stopping a complaint before it starts”

  1. Clara June 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    Yup we are not amused, very unprofessional I say

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